Saturday, June 24, 2017

Darth in the Daylilies

Somewhere in my neighborhood, there's a house with a funky yard. I came across it once before, but had forgotten about it. Doll heads and empty bowls are used to interesting effect among their plants, for instance.

Along a low stone wall, full of daylilies, there's a row of rounded objects, and among them, lost in the leaves, I saw this:


He lost his head, and this is clearly what happened to it. He's resting in peace.

Friday, June 23, 2017

A Logo that *Does* Read

Using a picture to stand in for a letter is a common way to make a logo. An apple becomes an O in an education-related logo, a mountain becomes a capital A or M. Or the outline of Minnesota becomes one of way too many letters that it does not resemble. Yada yada, you've seen these logos. They're not clever, and usually they're not very readable (like this one and this one).

But hey, here's a logo that uses a picture to replace a letter and it totally works, with charm and clarity:


It's possible, people. Just do a better job.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Partly Cloudy with a Chance of Cars

I have a new weather app on my phone. Recently, when I checked its hourly forecast overnight to see if it was going to rain, I saw this:


At first, I couldn't figure out what those little blue cars were doing behind the clouds in the sky. But it slowly dawned on me they probably meant to indicate it was going to be foggy.

I can't be the only one who finds this visual shift from "things located in the sky" to "things on the ground" disorienting. But the idea of little blue cars banging around up in the heavens is kind of appealing in a cartoonish way.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

One Word in a Headline

It's easy to forget about the casual use of the epithet "Japs" if you didn't live through World War II. I recently ran across this ad celebrating VE day:


Click the image to zoom in and read the smaller type, but the headline is readable at this size: "You won the war in Europe, now let's whip the Japs."

The ad is meant to be a commemoration of the people from a company (Spaulding Bakeries) who were fighting in the war, and those who worked at home to supply food to the nation, and by extension, the war effort. But from my perspective, the thing I notice the most is that use of "Japs" in the headline.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Non-Spanish Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918

Over at Science-Based Medicine, Harriet Hall has been having fun with Spanish Flu myths. But I found some of the true things about the 1918-19 influenza pandemic even more interesting.

One-third of the world's population was infected by the flu, and 20 to 50 million people died. Extrapolating our current population, the equivalent impact today would be 2.3 billion people infected and 93 to 233 million deaths.

The flu was not Spanish, which I already knew, but I'm not sure I ever had heard why it was called that. Hall explains,

Spain got the blame because it was a neutral country in WWI and had no wartime press censorship. The countries involved in the war censored news about flu cases in their own countries. When Spain reported its cases, that news was reprinted and everyone got the idea that that’s where the epidemic started.
On the myth front, Hall explains that the flu has been attributed to vaccines, aspirin overdoses, and government/pharma conspiracies. None of which is true, of course. It's H1N1 influenza, and has been sequenced from the body of an Inuit woman buried in the Alaskan permafrost. Scientists now hypothesize that it originated in birds and mutated to allow spread to humans.

Monday, June 19, 2017

German or English?

The overlap set of English words and German proper names could make a cool Venn diagram (for instance, I wonder how many people named Dieter are dieters?). But this is a great one that I saw recently:


Do you think the person who started the Diedrich company, probably based on some newly efficient or improved way of roasting coffee, died rich? I bet he did.

(As seen at the Dunn Brothers coffee shop in Hastings, Minnesota.)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Skirt Is Not the Problem

For today, a tweet storm from Josh Weed‏ (@The_Weed), unrelated to obvious current topics, but addressing a contradiction that haunts many human societies:

I am a gay man who was raised in a heteronormative world. A part of this world I have always been baffled by is "modesty" culture.

The main premise of "modesty" culture is that women need to dress in a way that doesn't provoke sexual response in men. Which is insane. I think it is absolutely crazy that a man can look at a woman and say "I think you should wear something else, because seeing your skin makes me feel aroused. And that arousal is strong and I haven't learned how to appropriately manage it. So please change your clothes.

This is BONKERS. Especially when men then start to claim that a woman is *worth* more if they dress a certain way. As if covering flesh somehow earns a woman value, all because it doesn't evoke a sexual response in men. And then, if a woman DOESN'T do this? Well now a man has the right to chastise a woman, call her names, say she is slutty and wicked. All because *he* is having a sexual response!

Newsflash: women's worth is STATIC. It is inviolable. It doesn't change with what she does or doesn't wear. It doesn't change with sex. And a man's sexuality is HIS OWN RESPONSIBILITY.

Wanna known I know this? It's because in my whole life I have never told another man how to dress even though a man's body arouses me. I have never told a man he should put his shirt on on a hot day when he is on a summer run. I have never demanded modesty from a guy. I have never expected men to stop wearing loose basketball shorts just because they might be revealing to me and turn me on. In fact, I have had, my entire life, been in situations where men take ALL THEIR CLOTHES OFF RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME (locker rooms, etc.).

And guess what? Even though I have felt aroused, I have never EVER blamed another man for that arousal. My arousal is about ME. Not him. I have never assaulted another man for this. I have never raped another man for this. I have never claimed a man was "asking for it."

A person's worth is static, inviolable, and begins the day they are born as a baby until the day they die. Clothes do not change this. And a man's arousal is HIS OWN DAMN RESPONSIBILITY. It is NOT the responsibility of the body that evokes that arousal. Ever.

Straight men blaming women for their own sexual responses degrades women. And it disempowers men. It excuses them from taking ownership of their own bodies. And it allows them to build fury towards what they covet. It's dangerous. It leads to assault. It IS rape culture.

My four daughters deserve better than this. They deserve to be safe. They deserve to wear what feels good to them on a summer day. And they deserve to relish knowing that they are valuable no matter WHAT they wear. (You know, the same message men get from birth on!)
To which one person responded,
There's a great quote about how if lesbian/bi women don't misbehave upon seeing a woman in a short skirt, the problem isn't the skirt.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Turning Away from Turnip

A regular reader asked me to stop referring to Donald Trump as Turnip or the Turnip. What did turnips do to deserve this defamation? she asked. They are delicious. You can even pickle them.

Nothing, I say. The turnip is faultless. You are right.

I have affronted this noble vegetable and will henceforth use only Turmp (or Trump, I suppose) to refer to him. He is not good enough to share their humble name.


Rest well, turnip friends.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Yanez "Not Guilty" of Killing Philando Castile

Jeronimo Yanez has been found not guilty on all charges for killing Philando Castile and endangering the lives of Diamond Reynolds and her 4-year-old daughter. I was allowing myself to hope that the jury would find him guilty of at least the endangering charges, especially after they deliberated for almost five days.

I am imagining that one or two of the jurors were refusing to acquit (let's see... there were two African-descended people on the jury, I wonder who it could have been?), but they were worn down by the others to vote for acquittal. No way to know at this point, of course, but otherwise why would it have taken so long?

Here's the state of Twitter so far on the case, in reverse chronological order. I'll be at the protest tonight, 7:00 p.m., at the State Capitol.

Even as this has become so expected, we should never, ever lose a sense of outrage about it.
Ida Bae Wells‏ @nhannahjones

He did nothing wrong. He had a gun license. He did what the officer asked. The officer screwed up and gets NOTHING.
N. K. Jemisin

A system that perpetually condones the killing of people, without consequence, doesn't need to be revised, it needs to be dismantled!
Colin Kaepernick

When black men routinely get away w/killing cops we can talk abt need 2say Blue Lives Matter. Today that's like callin 4 white history month
Tim Wise‏

What happens to our souls when no hope is there for justice and no room is left for surprise? How any times can we do this, and not break? This system either kills us outright or it grinds us down day by day. Either way we land here. Again and again. What happens to our souls when no hope is there for justice and no room is left for surprise? How any times can we do this, and not break? We already know we need to love each other because this world doesn't love us. We don't need to be reminded, we don't need that lesson. But how do we keep believing that is enough?
jay smooth‏

On Wednesday, we were asked to come together after the congressional shooting. What do we do now that this brotha is dead and his murderer is free?
@drcarlhart

Philando Castile was murdered and apparently nobody did it.
Ashley C. Ford‏ @iSmashFizzle

How can Black people feel safe in this police state we live in?
Judith Browne Dianis‏

Let’s drop the pretenses and stop bothering to put police on trial for needlessly shooting black people. It would be more honest that way.
jelani cobb‏

serious question: what's the vetting process for cops? how are so many guys who get so scared in this difficult job?
@bomani_jones

The verdict in the Castile murder isn't proof the system is broken. It is proof that the system was built to oppress and it is working.
Mikki Kendall @Karnythia

They stopped him dozens more times for the next decade or so, until they shot him.
Gene Demby‏ @GeeDee215

Don't be fooled into believing a camera will bring justice. They turned lynchings into photo ops and postcards.
Melissa Harris-Perry‏

It is easier to blame jurors for really jacked up trial outcomes than it is to admit that injustice lives within our laws & legal processes.
T.L.‏ @talilalewis

[Philando Castile's] first [traffic] stop was for a learner's permit violation. "Three months after that first stop...his license was suspended and he went into his first spiral.... Of all of the stops, only six of them were things a police officer would notice from outside a car, things like speeding or having a broken muffler. Police stopped him on Jan. 8, 2003. They stopped him on Feb. 3 and on Feb. 12 and Feb. 26 and on March 4."
Gene Demby‏ @GeeDee215

The only thing worse than the verdict is the local news coverage of the verdict.
William Lindeke‏ @BillLindeke

Philando Castile had a permit to legally carry a gun. Philando Castile had a permit to legally carry a gun. Philando Castile had a permi-
Philip Lewis‏

Philando Castile "memorized the names of the 500 children he served every day—along with their food allergies."
Gabe Ortíz @TUSK81

"But why are so many Black people afraid of police?" Because society says they can kill us at will and not be punished.
Mikki Kendall @Karnythia

I've concluded white people are not rationally or morally capable of sitting on a jury where a police officer is the defendant.
TC‏ @tchopstl_

Yanez wasn't even found guilty of recklessly discharging a firearm - after shooting into a car with a four year old in the back seat.
The Advancement Project

there’s almost literally nothing a police officer can do to a black person that they can’t find legal justification for/get away with.
Joel D. Anderson @byjoelanderson

The criminal justice system - for a million different reasons - is not going to transform policing or hold it accountable. Ever.
Christopher Hayes

unreasonable fear cannot justify use of deadly force. unreasonable fear cannot justify use of deadly force. unreasonable fear cannot justify
andrea‏ @whtegrlinacrowd

Remember: in stand-your-ground states, everyone gets the immunity given to cops generally. (Except Black women like Marissa Alexander.)
Pat Thompson‏ @pattho

When police officers are allowed to kill (black) citizens for legally carrying a gun, what is the point of everyone carrying guns?
TC‏ @tchopstl_

Once Yanez said "I saw a gun" it was probably over. Despite all of the reason to be skeptical of that claim
Adam Miller‏ @ajm6792

We cannot claim to live in anything close to a just society if the police can kill someone for 6 seconds of alleged non-compliance
Adam Miller‏ @ajm6792
I should have known the jury wouldn't be able to convict based on the judge not allowing the prosecution to play the audio tape of Yanez's interview with the Bureau of Criminal Affairs. He allowed the transcript only, which masks Yanez's "unreasonableness." And then the judge would not let the jury have that transcript or court transcript of Yanez's testimony. The jury was clearly trying to decide if Yanez had been reasonable, and the judge deprived them of those tools.

Remember: this judge was the second one in the case. The first one was removed because of defense objections. They didn't have to give a reason, but the fact that the first judge was black (and also the second most senior judge on the county bench) is a pretty good guess for a reason.

The Yanez decision makes it clear that cops can shoot you if they think you've been smoking pot, as made clear in this Facebook post a few days ago by Robin Garwood, a legislative aide to Minneapolis City Councilmember Cam Gordon:
I obviously don't know what's going to happen, and whether there will be #justice4philando, but it's not looking good. And there's so much to write about this that I feel overwhelmed, but I want to second Carin's spot-on focus on the defense's marijuana excuse.

My dad smoked a lot of pot. For a long time he did it daily, or nearly daily. I have had a lot of friends in my life who smoke marijuana very regularly. Most of them are white. Most have faced no negative legal repercussions for their marijuana use. I have used marijuana quite a few times, though definitely not regularly anymore (mostly just because I don't actually like it very much).

The focus on whether or not Philando was high at the time of the incident is appalling. It's unreasonable, an excuse, a fig leaf, bullshit. The fact that Philando may have smoked marijuana at some point before he was killed has NOTHING TO DO with Yanez shooting seven rounds into his car within 74 seconds of the start of the traffic stop. It has nothing to do with why he was pulled over, nothing to do with Yanez's failure to deescalate the situation, nothing to do with Yanez's dangerous 'bulletproof warrior' mental state, nothing to do with Yanez's decision to kill him.

When I read the things Yanez's defense attorney has said about this bullshit "marijuana defense," it reads like Reefer Madness:

“That was a big issue of us,” Gray said. “It’s our position that the evidence will be overwhelming that (Castile and his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds) had been smoking marijuana that day. … And that explains why when … officer Yanez said, ‘Don’t reach for (your gun). Don’t do it.’ … Castile reached for his gun anyway.”

Anyone who knows anything about marijuana knows how totally, appallingly, laughably full of shit this is. It's not a legal defense, it's character assassination of the victim. It's not actually about making a credible argument that having smoked marijuana at some point made Philando more likely to reach for his gun (which, by everyone's account but Yanez's, he didn't even do); it's about painting him as a criminal, a bad guy, violent, scary. It's trying to make Yanez's *totally unreasonable* fear of Philando seem defensible. It's trying to make Philando seem dangerous - when it's obvious that the only dangerous person in this situation was Jeronimo Yanez.

It's not okay.
If you're black and have been smoking pot, or if the cop thinks you've been smoking pot. And that's not even getting into being a black person with a legally registered gun. The Second Amendment was written to make slave patrols legal; it's baked in that black folks aren't supposed to have guns.

Jeronimo Yanez was clearly a good public relations officer for the city of St. Anthony. He was (is) terrible at the most important duties of a police officer, as demonstrated not just by his killing of Philando but by an earlier incident described in the May 23 podcast of 74 Seconds, created by Minnesota Public Radio. He had no business patrolling our streets with a gun in his hands.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Flips of the Tongue, 2017

It's been a while since I posted one of these. I keep a list in my phone for times when I hear or read something that qualifies as flip of the tongue, whether an eggcorn, malapropism, or plain old mixed metaphor. Seems like most of these come from Facebook.

I am sure I hear the plaintiff cry of an animal... (Written by a high school friend on Facebook.)

Feathering their own beds. (A Facebook friend, discussing millionaires in Congress.)

It's mind-bottling how inept the drivers are in Mount Vernon, Ohio. (From Twitter.)

You have your ear to the pulse. (Said by one of Daughter Number Three-Point-One's friends.)

She was skiddish. (From Twitter.)

That does not bold well. (From a comment thread on MPR's Newscut blog.)

College costs are out of the roof. (Comment from a high school student on NPR.)

Convenient store. (From a Facebook comment.)

Bubba tea. (Instead of bubble tea, possibly the result of autocorrect.)

Trump looks like a duffos. (From a Facebook comment; what a doofus mistake.)

A behind the seems look at... (From a friend's Facebook post, but then it turned out he had written it on purpose.)

They are bunkering down for the winter. (Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC, talking about the Lakota encampment at the Dakota Access pipeline.)

Drill down to the brass tacks. (Not sure where I saw or heard this.)

We are decedents of a man who settled in western Wisconsin... (From a friend's Facebook post.)

Most religions have tenants. (Not sure where I saw this, but it was in writing. It may be a new favorite error.)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

This Is What I Think, I Think

From Matt Taibbi:

[American v]oters for decades were conned into thinking they were noisome minorities whose best path to influence is to make peace with the mightier "center," which inevitably turns out to support military interventionism, fewer taxes for the rich, corporate deregulation and a ban on unrealistic "giveaway" proposals like free higher education. Those are the realistic, moderate, popular ideas, we're told.

But it's a Wizard of Oz trick, just like American politics in general. There is no numerically massive center behind the curtain. What there is instead is a tiny island of wealthy donors, surrounded by a protective ring of for-sale major-party politicians (read: employees) whose job it is to castigate too-demanding voters and preach realism.

Those pols do so with the aid of a bund of dependably alarmist sycophants in the commercial media, most of whom, whether they know it or not, technically inhabit the low end of the 1 percent and tend to be amazed that people out there are pissed off about stuff. 
That's how it works these days, folks. Reading Cory Doctorow's near-future book Walkaway, with its premise of .000001 percenters living an entirely separate existence and controlling "default" society, has put this on my mind even more than usual. And then there was Taibbi's new post to remind me of it again.

It's no way to run a democracy, even if candidates aren't dropping out because of death threats.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Congestion Question

Our local right-wing think tank, the Center of the American Experiment, has fixed its sights on public transit and bike infrastructure, building the case for the work done lately in our Republican-controlled legislature. They've got an all-out push happening with op-eds, bumper stickers, radio ads, billboards and more, complaining about congestion on the highways and putting out pseudo-intellectual talking points based on just about nothing.

They've been successful in getting the Star Tribune to publish their tripe, I have to admit. Today there were some letters in response, including this one from an urban planner who summed up my thoughts:

When people think of what makes their favorite city special, I doubt the width of the freeways is ever the aspect they recall. Instead, people value the unique places, neighborhoods, shops, restaurants, parks or countless other features that make cities vibrant places to live. I wonder if the author of the study advocating for expanding the region’s highways considered this at all.

What I believe was missed in that study is a lesson American cities have learned the hard way over the past 70 years: The success of a city is not determined by how fast you can drive through it. Over the decades, our highways have expanded, carving up cities and displacing once-vibrant neighborhoods. If the physical destruction wasn’t enough, more traffic lanes simply result in a taxpayer-funded incentive to drive more. Traffic isn’t alleviated, people drive farther, cities lose their population, and soon the once-vibrant city is an empty hull surrounded by freeways and surface parking lots.

The last 20 years have seen a reversal of this trend as cities have managed to attract young professionals and empty-nesters alike. A year and a half ago upon graduating college, I became one of these newly converted urbanites when I chose to move to the Twin Cities. There were many reasons behind this decision, but the ability to drive down I-94 at 70 mph was not one of them.

Michael Greif, Minneapolis
The only thing that comes from more highway capacity is more traffic. It's a well-documented fact. As Matt Eckholm noted recently on Streets.MN, maybe CAE is less concerned about commuting times and more concerned about keeping "outer ring suburbanites focused and angry enough about their commutes to carry their resentment to the ballot box."